ACLU sues Trump over voter fraud commission

ACLU sues Trump over voter fraud commission
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The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging President Trump’s voter fraud commission.

In a lawsuit filed Monday in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, the ACLU says the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity violated federal public access requirements by holding its first meeting in private, without public notice.

Trump formed the 15-member commission with an executive order in May to investigate his claims of voter fraud in last year’s presidential election. The group is expected to hold its first public meeting on July 19, according to a notice published in the Federal Register last week.

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The ACLU lawsuit notes that Vice President Pence, who chairs the commission, held a 90-minute telephone meeting with its members on June 28. During the call, the suit says vice chairman Kris Kobach told members the commission was sending a letter to the 50 states and the District of Columbia requesting information on registered voters, including full names and addresses, political party registration and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers. 

In its complaint, the ACLU argues that the commission violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires all advisory committee meetings to be open to the public and be given timely notice in the Federal Register.

As many as 44 states and the District have so far refused to turn over the documents, and regulatory experts told The Hill that they believed the commission may have violated the law by not first running its request through a federal office that handles information requests for the government.

Kobach, however, has claimed that only 14 states and the District of Columbia had refused the commission's request.

The Federal Advisory Committee Act also requires the membership of the advisory committee to be fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented, the suit says, and ensures that “appropriate provisions” be made “to assure that the advice and recommendations of the advisory committee will not be inappropriately influenced by the appointing authority or by any special interest, but will instead be the result of the advisory committee’s independent judgment."

The ACLU said the commission is stacked with individuals who have endorsed the president’s unproven claims of voter fraud and that provisions have not been made to insulate the commission’s advice and recommendations from Trump’s influence.

The group is asking the court to require all commission meetings made public, as well as all “records, reports, transcripts, minutes, appendixes, working papers, drafts, studies, agenda, or other documents.”

The ACLU has also asked the court to require the commission membership to be fairly balanced and to force Trump to add a provision to his order to ensure commission members act independently.  

The Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center has filed a lawsuit to block the commission from collecting state voter records from across the country. 

The group claims the government should have assessed privacy concerns before making the request, should be using a secured website to receive the information and should not make public partial Social Security numbers, The Washington Post reported.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law also filed a lawsuit Monday seeking a court order to stop the commission from holding its July 19 meeting and any future ones until it complies with the Federal Advisory Committee Act. 

The group has asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order that directs the commission to produce all records relating to the commission’s establishment, organization, operation or work and requires it to open any and all meetings to in-person public attendance and participation.

In a response to the Electronic Privacy Information Center lawsuit filed Wednesday, the commission ha said it does not consider itself bound by the FACA’s requirements.

—Updated at 4:23 p.m.